- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 5, 2016

SIDNEY, Iowa (AP) - A city official in southwest Iowa failed to conduct daily drinking water quality tests for years but gave regulators false reports showing they had been completed, according to a criminal complaint released Tuesday.

Mark Travis, the certified water system operator for Sidney is charged with felonious misconduct in office and falsifying required water quality information. He made an initial court appearance and has been released on bond.

Travis, 35, falsified monthly operation reports given to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources from 2009 to 2015, according to the complaint filed by the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office.

The reports indicated the water supply, which serves about 1,100 customers, had been tested daily for chlorine levels and bacteria as required. But the DNR became suspicious after discovering data that was “nearly statistically impossible” in the reports, the complaint said.

A DNR environmental specialist discovered during a visit to the water system that chlorine testing packets had not been used and were long expired, which would have rendered them unreliable. Travis initially complained that the DNR inspector “had no business barging in” and that he should have given him advance notice of the inspection, the complaint says.

Chlorine is added to drinking water during treatment as a disinfectant, but water systems have to monitor the amount present to ensure the level is safe. Too much chlorine can have harmful health effects.

Travis admitted to a DNR investigator he was not conducting daily tests as required. In February, he agreed to an administrative order that revoked his water treatment certificate and bars him from holding any similar certification in the future.

City attorney Eric Hansen said that Travis, who is also the city’s public works director, was stripped of his duties with the water system months ago and was recently placed on administrative leave.

“It doesn’t appear that the water quality was ever in any jeopardy,” Hansen said. “The DNR’s big concern is that somebody said the testing was done and it wasn’t.”

The city has hired an outside consultant to run its water system, he said.

Travis’ attorney didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

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